EPA to Assess Whether Lead Emissions from Piston Engine Aircraft Endanger Human Health and Welfare

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WASHINGTON (January 12, 2022) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it will assess whether emissions from leaded-fuel piston engine aircraft contribute to air pollution that endangers public health and welfare. The agency plans to release a proposal for public review and comment in 2022 and take final action in 2023.

“Protecting children’s health and reducing lead exposure are interrelated priorities at the heart of EPA’s agenda,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “The EPA has been studying the impact on air quality of lead emissions from piston-engined aircraft near airports for years, and we will now apply this information to determine whether this pollution poses a health risk. and human well-being.”

While airborne lead levels in the United States have decreased by 99% since 1980, piston-engined aircraft that run on leaded fuel are the largest remaining source of airborne lead emissions. .

Exposure to lead can come from several sources, including lead paint, contaminated soil, industrial emissions from battery recycling or metal processing, and burning lead-containing fuel or waste. Children’s exposure to lead can have irreversible and permanent health effects. No safe blood lead levels in children have been identified. Even low blood lead levels have been shown to affect IQ, attention span, and academic achievement. In adults, health effects from lead exposure can include cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension, decreased kidney function, and reproductive problems.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA reviews information about air pollutants and sources of air pollution to determine if they threaten human health or well-being. This is called a “finding of endangerment”. The EPA currently plans to release a proposed endangerment finding for leaded-fuel piston engine aircraft in 2022 for public review and comment. After evaluating feedback on the proposal, we expect to publish any final findings of endangerment in 2023.

Today’s action responds to petitions from Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Center for Environmental Health, Friends of the Earth, Montgomery-Gibbs Environmental Coalition, Oregon Aviation Watch, County of Santa Clara and the town of Middleton, WI.

More information about the petition response and the EPA’s activities on lead emissions from piston-engined aircraft can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/regulations-emissions-vehicles-and-engines/petitions-and-epa-response-memorandums-related-lead


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